I choose to believe that a couple of years after they made “The Long Goodbye,” the episode’s writer, Michael Pertwee, was talking with his brother, actor Jon Pertwee. The actor, then working in Doctor Who, mentioned that he’d like to have some kind of space-rocket car. Michael said “Well, there’s a funny thing, because I did this episode of The Persuaders!…”
Perhaps fortunately, the resulting car, which is known as both the Alien and the Whomobile, isn’t quite as ridiculous as this one, but it made its debut in a 1974 episode of that series and both are just lovably, wonderfully seventies in every way.
This car is driven around London by the Space Queen as part of a soap promotion, and Brett hijacks it. I picked this episode not merely for its car, but by its driver, the beautiful Valerie Leon. Nicola Pagett, Madeline Smith and Anouska Hempel are also in this story, along with familiar faces Peter Sallis and Glynn Edwards. It’s full of fine actors, good-natured silliness, and wonderful location filming all around London. It may not be the meatiest episode of the series, but it’s breezy and very entertaining.
For our last little look at Man in a Suitcase, I naturally picked the one with Roger Delgado. And I’m thrilled to say that this is one of those pleasant and happy occasions where our son recognized an actor. “The Master?!” he shouted. Sadly, like some other actors I really enjoy from the period, including Gerald Sim and Charles Lloyd Pack, Delgado is only in this one for a very short time. The bulk of it is carried by John Gregson, with Nicola Pagett as his wife, and Wolfe Morris as a genuinely frightening villain.
Well, sadly, other than spotting the Master and a great sequence where McGill bugs a room with a variety of cameras and tape recorders, some of which he expects to be discovered, our son didn’t really enjoy this one either. The problem this time: torture. Gregson’s character spends a surprisingly long time, for a show of this day, getting bruised and bloodied, and Morris’s character has the upper hand for about the final third of the story. So yeah, this one’s a pretty nasty story, and so we end our look at Man in a Suitcase with our son largely unsatisfied with it. But we’ll try another ITC series for a short sample in a couple of weeks and see how it goes.
In previous entries, I’d mentioned that John Bryce had been given the reins of The Avengers, cast Linda Thorson, and worked on three episodes. The first of these was called “Invitation to a Killing,” written by Donald James and filmed in the fall of 1967. Interestingly, all the available information we have says that this was a ninety-minute episode. I’m not sure whether this means it had as much material as a two-part adventure, or if it was seventy-five minutes of story with room for ads.
The full version of “Invitation to a Killing” has never surfaced – in public, anyway – and is presumed to have been destroyed. Some of the material from the episode, most obviously the scenes featuring Tara with blonde hair and a garish pink coat, was repurposed for “Have Guns – Will Haggle,” with reshoots taking place about five months after the original story was made. It’s a little more complicated than just saying all the stuff with Tara as a blonde was shot first and all the scenes where she’s a brunette came later, but it is interesting that the only actors with speaking parts who appear with her as a brunette are Patrick Macnee and just one of the guest stars, Jonathan Burn. (We noted that some of the exteriors, where Linda Thorson is wearing that totally fab and mod plaid sixties minidress, were very clearly filmed in the winter. She must have been freezing!)
Outside of all the production curiosities, this is far from the best Avengers episode. John Bryce and Donald James seem to have been fulfilling that apparent remit to produce a more conventional action-adventure series, and this is a fairly ordinary story of stolen rifles, mercenaries, and an auction among disgraced colonels and warlords hoping to use the guns to start coups d’état in trouble spots around the globe. It’s not bad, just ordinary, and doesn’t have that odd Avengers spark. Among the guests, Nicola Pagett plays the chief villain, and Timothy Bateson, who we’ll see again in a couple of nights, is an oddball ballistics expert.
I thought that the most interesting scene, by far, was the opening, in which the stuntmen playing the mercenaries use a trampoline to go over a barbed wire fence. Our son enjoyed both the climax and the tag scene. He got very excited and worried as the lit fuse to some ready-to-blast gelignite burns down, and loved the silly comedy of Steed and Tara receiving an unexpected and very hungry gift from the grateful president of an African nation.